The Clapping Tree by Matt Dennison

Australian filmmaker Jutta Pryor‘s atmospheric, pitch-perfect response to a text by American poet Matt Dennison, with whom she regularly collaborates. Actress Rebecca Page serves as a stand-in for the female narrator of the poem—presented as text-on-screen up until the final, spoken line. Click through to Vimeo for the full text. Here’s the description:

The Clapping Tree is a poetry film tribute to mark International Women’s Day, celebrating the strength, vulnerability and spirit of a woman surviving the rigors of life in a remote, male dominated, pioneering settlement. A film collaboration between poet Matt Dennison (Columbus, Mississippi, US), sound artist Mario Lino Stancati (Italy) and filmmaker Jutta Pryor (Melbourne, Australia). Filmed at the Tyrconnell Historic Goldmine in outback north Queensland, where several original buildings and machines remain testament to a goldrush that took place 120 years ago.

Dennison has also made films with Marc Neys (aka Swoon), Marie Craven, and Michael Dickes. We’ve shared a few of them here.

I’ve noticed that current academic discourse in the U.S. has cooled toward prosopopoeia, in reaction to all-too-common instances of poets from traditional oppressor groups presuming to speak in the voices of the oppressed without a whole lot of awareness or cultural sensitivity. But I think it’s an over-reaction to completely proscribe this kind of writing, because even when the imaginative effort falls short it’s still essential for everyone to try to put themselves in others’ shoes, or why live in a society at all? I don’t want to speak for Matt, whom I don’t know, but speaking for myself as a cis-het white male who has written a lot of poems in the voices of women over the years, and has also been known to write from the point-of-view of trees: the openness and vulnerability involved is perhaps an end in itself. To then entrust one’s words to others—women artists, in this case—represents a logical next step toward some kind of genuine synthesis of compassion and understanding. The potential rewards of such an imaginative project may be gauged by the high aesthetic and emotional quality of this film. If the ending doesn’t make you mutter “Holy shit!” I don’t know what to tell you.

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